Reading: Ben Aaronovitch — Whispers Under Ground

After reading Moon Over Soho and Rivers of London, books 2 and 1 respectively of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series, I ordered the lot (except the latest, it seems), and read them. And I was in London! So I was all, “I love this city!” and felt like I knew it so much because of these novels. What I call “Harry Potter if he was a black cop in London, played by a young Idris Elba, or Stormzy, and Hermione Granger was a Somali Muslim cop on the Murder Squad.”

I slammed the whole series over the last two months, as they arrived, and usually in a couple of days per novel, except when I was on tour — so they’re also firmly bound with the joys of travel and rivers for me now, the Danube and Thames, which is fitting. Whispers Under Ground doesn’t obviously follow the larger story of the Faceless Man, which almost makes these first three stand-alone works. It does introduce a whole pile of characters, locations, peoples, who fill out the world of the series in this and later novels.

I’m probably going to re-binge the whole series in the coming weeks (just need to re-buy Rivers of London first), which tells how much I’m enjoying these. Funny that they’re a series too, ’cos I’m always reluctant to commit, but cheers to Gala for introducing me to this. Best joyous fantasy read of the twenty-tens.

Ben Aaronovitch — Whispers Under Ground
Ben Aaronovitch — Whispers Under Ground

The Wild Boars of Jungfernheide Forst

Morning ride in the forest around Flughafen Tegel last weekend, when I was on residency in Isabelle Schad’s studio in Wiesenburg, Wedding. Up by the small lake, “Cripes that’s a massive dog,” at the dark, solid mass running across the track. “That’s no dog!” I think as it pauses and give me the beady eye in profile, “Wild boar! Cripes it’s big!” It potters off on skinny legs into the undergrowth where I can hear it and companion scruffing and foraging. This is right at the narrow end of the forest, houses and backyards just beyond the block of trees.

As usual, I pause on the lake rotunda and enjoy the view and stillness. A woman comes by with a pair of dogs. I say, “Excuse me, are you going left up ahead?”

“Are the wild boars out? There’s more than twenty of them in the forest,” she replies, quite proud of her mob of swine. “We had at least 14 piglets this year!”

Berlin, where I’ve run into a fox by Alexander Platz, saw another hunting a cat at night in the Uferhallen, where the forests in the city are full of wild boars, and there’s rumour of a wolf in Grunewald.

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Photos from (I’m not sure we gave it a name) Performance at Rökridån, Stockholm

When Dasniya and I were rehearsing and performing at Rökridån in Stockholm earlier this month, Gabriel Widing—one of Rökridån’s creators/part of NYXXX took some photos. (Apparantly there’s video(s) somewhere also.) They’ve been sitting on my desktop for two weeks glaring at me; every day, “Why are we not on supernaut yet, Frances?” And every time I look at them, I want a whole hour or ninety minutes of this.

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“Eine Kleine Geschichte”

Dasniya sent me these from our Sunday performance last night, and said, It’s especially sweet if you make a slideshow and play the Swedish volk music to it.” I said, “Oooyess!” discovered the music we’d grabbed from YouTube is either deleted or seriously inaccessible, scraped it from elsewhere, either way, thanks Route 69K Stockholm bus driver on Sunday around 12:15 who was playing this!

Skalden Wennerbom from Gustaf Fröding — 39 dikter med musik av Torgny Björk by Herr T och hans Spelmän (Torgny Björk)

5 Days of Making Shibari (3 Workshops, A Performance), & Stockholm

A slightly unannounced workshop (compared to the other two, I mean), three days of making performance with NYXXX at Rökridån, co-organised by Kokoro 2. Eleven people, some artists, one engineer (always one engineer), a social-anthropologist, part-way underground in the meat-packing district. We stay almost on the edge of Stockholm, one stop before the end of the line, Bagarmossen. The forest begins nearer than that last stop. Roads and cars encircle but do not enter. Wide, curved paths, trees, eruptions of glacier-smoothed granite. Most other places this would be the dead-end. Here, it’s like the ideal of high-modernist urban planning architecture—the antithesis of Le Corbusier—made real. It’s a little disturbing at first.

Rökridån is half-way from Bagarmossen to the centre of Stockholm, probably an half-hour walk, 15 minute brisk spin on a bike. We take the train, walk the last bit. Only four hours a day, though with warm-up before and drifting over the finish time, this stretches to five, six. And then we rehearse. I haven’t hung myself up since teaching at ImPulsTanz last year.

This is writing for remembering. Since working regularly with Florian, Dasniya’s teaching, performances, general ideas and interests have changed.

In-between stuff. Friday, we rehearse in Bagarmossen, then end the afternoon in Östasiatiskamuseet. Also walking around the harbours. Wednesday night we see a performance at MDT. It causes me to doubt that people with acceptable bodies (identities, desires) can have any understanding of those without, or even care. Sunday I go to the Historiska museet. A bus driver plays Swedish folk music. Later that night, we use it in a performance.

I eat a lot of liquorice. Sweet, salty, chewy, rubbery, stuff that melts and stuff that erodes. The sky is the kind that comes from across oceans, open, tattered clouds, the air sharp and polished. It’s often windy. Inside, or in the sun, it’s warm; if the sun was higher, it would approach harshness. As soon as the sun is gone, it chills like stone in shade. If the public transport doesn’t work, they pay for people to take taxis. I didn’t eat reindeer. Or fish.

Thursday night is Valborgsmässoafton, Walpugis Night. No burning of witches north of the Baltic, only celebrating the arrival of spring with bonfires. Stockholm seems to have a lot of immigrants. It felt a little like Sydney or Melbourne. I liked it more for that (I know it’s not straightforward or rosy).

Both Tova and Christian have a lot of books. Walls of books. Cheese comes in at least 1kg blocks. Smaller is possible but not encouraged. Coffee also. I wonder if in winter they are snowed in, and need such large amounts to get through. Granite is everywhere. The city and trees are a thin scraping on the surface, you could probably clean the whole place back to rock with a brush, vacuum cleaner, and an afternoon. It’s insanely beautiful.

The word for ‘child’ is the same as in Scots: barn, bairn. I try and not find similarities with Scotland and Northern England. When people greet you, even in shops or at work, they say, “Hey!” It’s so ridiculously friendly. If a ‘k’ is followed by an ‘ä’, it’s pronounced ‘sh’. I ask Tova who inflicted this upon them. She laughs and tells me about ‘sj’. ‘Hen’ is in the Svenska Akademiens ordlista as a gender-neutral personal pronoun. People we meet use it easily.

What else?

Monday we arrive, are met at the central bus station, cross the road to the train station, find ourselves on the T17, south-south-east to Bagarmossen. A long meal together, roast aubergine with walnuts. Tuesday we are early heading to Rökridån. Dasniya sent photos of our performance, we both took many photos throughout the week (as did everyone). I’ll defer a description in lieu of those later. NYXXX are LARPers. I found that out late in the week. When she told me it was like the secret that makes coherent everything which preceded. First day: a warmup, some exercises/tasks/trials with ropes. Second day: a warmup, Dasniya showed some of her work from rehearsals, talking about how performance is made. The difference between performance for each other, playing publicly, and performance as a branch of theatre are discussed. Third day: an assemblage of objects, ideas, wishes, things to try; an agreement of who does what with whom; experiments with rope that become installations. I said, “Wow, that’s really fucking good” to myself quite a bit.

Friday. May Day.

Saturday, Yoga and Shibari. On more familiar ground here. The performance workshop went into new things for Dasniya (and myself). Some things worked, others not completely. Working or not-working for me are somewhat questions of engineering; it’s the ground they operate on that’s either fertile or arid (pushing a shaky mixed metaphor there). I think the performance workshop, especially with LARPing was really this, several things coming together that fit so neatly and I’m kinda watching myself watching it thinking, “Faaark! This can go so far into Weirdsville…” and wanting that in all its rawness, messiness, bits of failure and bits of sublime on the stage at MDT cos it’s so much more relevant, so much more real.

Dasniya’s yoga approaches Isabelle’s warmup from different directions. I’m doing all the same all over the place. Same. Different. Slightly different. Kinda the same. We rehearse before and after. Firstly after is a Podcast dinner. NYXXX, a Tascam, a table of food (yes, large block of cheese). The talking goes from performance to stomach bacteria to cosplaying … I thought there was an interesting formality in how this was prepared, which contrasted with the informality when let to run on its own accord. After that, full stomach, more rehearsing.

Sunday. I go to the museum. The bus driver and his music. Later, after the Self-suspension workshop, Tova helps me find the music, poems of Gustav Fröding arranged by Torgny Björk. People start laughing immediately when we play it. Different people in the weekend workshops to the week one. Many the same. Different energy in Rökridån also. I try suspending myself in two different hip harnesses. I’m unsure lately if I want to hang at all. I do find some possibilities, but there’s a physical reluctance towards pain that comes from dealing with chronic injuries, as if the surface of my skin is too sensitive.

Performance. Rubber dog mask for me. Cat for Dasniya, Pig for Tova. A green bicycle. A white calico skirt, beaded green vest, also a black ballet tutu, gold glitter heels, a table and chair, a ladder. From the inside performing with masks, it can feel nothing, or stupid, or whatever, but from the outside with these not-quite human not-quite animal masks, it’s dead strange. It’s like they become blank signifier volumes. It’s not anthropomorphic either; more like becoming animal. The practicalities of dealing with much-reduced vision and hearing, the inner experience of wearing this cave-like helmet causes a different mundane physicality and movement. They’re also good for shy performers.

It takes an hour to pack the ropes,

A rope jam takes place. Stockholm people are well-handy with shibari. All quite astounding, really. Dasniya and I have a beer in the local pub. It closes early, by pub standards. The sky still has a faint tint of the sun riding the horizon at 11pm.

Monday, pack, train, lunch with Tova, we don’t manage a ferry ride and wander. Bus to airport, liquorice and chocolate. Plane makes land somewhere around the border of Germany and Poland. We see Uferhallen on the descent. Florian is at the arrivals gate with a sign, “Shibari Express” and chewy sweet stuff.

 

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BUD-KRK

Holiday deviation. Instead of Zagreb, Krakow. With an ‘´’ above the ‘o’ and pronounced Crackuff, ah I feel so ignorant. So, deviated to the bus station because all trains were overnight and the primary reason why I like slow ground travel is to look at things; looking at night not included. Bus then. A little narrow in the knee space, but no one next to me. And getting ahead of myself here: getting up at 0445 and using the sublime Budapest public transport at 0530 to get arse on seat and into gear an hour later.

So, Poland? Not Zagreb? Well, I’ve lived in Berlin a while, and Poland’s only 100km eastwards and the busses/trains are cheaper than a meal (seriously, bus from Budapest to Kraków was under 19€, for about 400km). But even before I decided to go north-ish instead of south-west-ish I’d been looking at maps and excuses not to go south, as much as I want to see the ocean and south. Krakow was the closest city I’d never been to that I also thought might be interesting. I also seem to be in high museum mode (as recent blog posts show), and Krakow has mediæval coming out all over the place. Monstrous black wooden mediæval churches in the countryside, frocked up nuns and monks strolling the pavement, frothy explosions of churchy spires.

Anyway, 630am on a bus. I just stuck the camera at the slightly dirty, slightly reflective window and went click click click. Mist, fog, haze, low cloud, greyness, everything leeched of colour and out of focus, eventually, once we got into the Carpathians (the best name for a mountain range ever) some snow (but honestly this winter’s been a wash out for the white stuff), below zero and the liquid, dry, glarey light that brings. I liked the effect of all these layers of reflection, light bouncing around, diffuse brightness, somehow managed to capture a bit of it in between over-excitement at the glorious beauty of the journey. I was so thrilled I only nodded off for about half an hour in Poland, that after less than four hours sleep last night.

Oh, and the piglets. Skoda. White. Ahead of the bus. Driver and co-driver laughing and talking animatedly with couple in the front seats about it. Bus tries to pass for a long while, so sitting on the Skoda’s bumper. Little pink pig ears and head pops up over the back seat. As we overtake, we see the entire rear is packed with piglets.

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Prague Trams 22 & 17

Opted for the all-day public transport tram tour today, plonking my arse on the 22 and 17 trams in both directions. I almost ended up in a museum, but it’s Monday so they’re closed. Tomorrow then. And now some photos of Prague that aren’t in museums.